Annabelle Conroy has just pulled the con of a lifetime on psycho casino boss Jerry Bagger and knows she should run, but she can’t bring herself to leave D.C. and her new friends. The magnitude of her error becomes apparent when she learns that a colleague who failed to lie low enough has been bashed and left for dead - she knows he would have talked. Enter her friends of the Camel Club, four middle-aged conspiracy theorists who are happy to help, even if it means risking bringing Jerry’s wrath down on themselves. Annabelle’s estranged father Paddy wants to help as well, but his plan involves using Annabelle as bait.
The Camel Club member who calls himself Oliver Stone has a bigger problem to deal with. Harry Finn is a Homeland Security contractor and devoted family man who spends his spare time working his way through a list. All those who appear on it end up discreetly dead, and thanks to power-hungry ex-intelligence chief Carter Gray Oliver’s real identity has just been added to it.
Although it’s the third in a series I’d say it could be read on its own without much confusion; but The Camel Club and The Collectors are well worth reading. They’re an unlikely bunch of heroes, but somehow between them they have all the skills needed to take on anything - even irate nutjobs and corrupt politicians. The two sides to the plot don’t meet until late in the book, but if that counts as a flaw it’s one I never noticed while reading. Baldacci has a habit of jumping from scene to scene at the most suspenseful point possible, which is either really good or really annoying, depending on how many other things there are that you ought to be doing. This is one of those books where sliding into another chapter (and another, and another) can be all too easy.
The best thing about the book is Harry Finn. He’s such an interesting character; it’s obvious from the start that he’s not what he appears, and obvious soon after that he’s a stone cold killer driven by revenge, yet it is impossible to dislike him. When not freelancing as a hitman he goes to extremes to ensure the security of his country and is the sort of father every kid should have. If he’s not quite a hero, he’s not truly a villain either, and I’m hoping he’ll pop up again in the next book in the series.
Sadly this is counterbalanced by something which my mother and I agreed was a horrible thing to do. I can see why it had to happen - it was a necessary catalyst, and the book wouldn’t have ended with the, er, bang that it did otherwise. But I still wish there could have been any other means by which to accomplish that end - one which didn’t leave me blinking back the tears.